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More severe baseline pain is associated with greater acupuncture treatment effects, according to an analysis of data from the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration. The authors’ data set included 25 trials with sham acupuncture controls (7097 patients), and 25 trials with no acupuncture controls (16,041 patients). Meta-analysis explored the impact of five patient characteristics (age at baseline, sex, pain duration, baseline pain severity and baseline psychological distress) on the effect of acupuncture. Of the five patient characteristics tested, they found only baseline severity of pain to potentially moderate the effect of acupuncture, with patients that reported more severe pain at baseline experiencing more benefit from acupuncture, compared to either sham-control or non-acupuncture control.

The Effect of Patient Characteristics on Acupuncture Treatment Outcomes: An Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis of 20,827 Chronic Pain Patients in Randomized Controlled Trials. Clin J Pain. 2019 May;35(5):428-434